Walkabout Theater Company is a multidisciplinary ensemble of artists committed to a unique practice of theatre-making in Chicago. Walkabout produces two streams of programming: world-premiere, touring performances created by the ensemble through its intensive laboratory practice; and original, site-specific events focused on the development of new voices, public programming, and unique artistic collaborations. Recent projects have included an outdoor adaption of The Wild with the Chicago Parks District in 2015, and a flash-mob beach spectacle that visited ten Chicago beaches between Edgewater and Hyde Park in the summer of 2014. Additional projects include an international tour of The Wild to India and Indiana, and Walkabout’s 2015 partnership with the international ensemble Moon Fool to create the US premiere of The Storm at Links Hall in Chicago. (See figure 1 and Walkabout Theater Company’s website at http://www.walkabouttheater.org/.)
Devised work is absolutely correct but so very broad. We are part of a movement in need of better vocabulary! Equally relevant are the categories of physical theatre, laboratory theatre, ensemble theatre, performance art, and experimental theatre. Perhaps someday those terms will become more clearly defined and useful, but in the broadest sense, our work falls distinctly outside of dramatic literature and new-play development.
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From the inside, we like to refer to our lineage and our intention. We have modeled ourselves after laboratory theatres in the lineage of Grotowski’s Teatr Laboratorium, including The Odin Teatret in Denmark and Double Edge Theatre in Massachusetts. Important Chicago influences on our ensemble members include the spectacle performance of Redmoon, the Links Hall community, and the institutional practices of Steppenwolf. Mario Biagini, Chuck Mee, and Fides Krucker are heroes among us. These initial guides remain important touchstones, even as we distinguish ourselves from them more over time.
Our intention is to create a double encounter: between a central question and a theatrical production, and between the ensemble and the audience. Storytelling is a tool we use, but not our primary objective. Our goal is not to show the audience a depiction of how a character once behaved or might behave, but to create a moment where a group of people truly behave in a wonderful, strange, and joyful way—a way that creates for us a new understanding of what is possible. (See figure 2 and the Chicago Tribune’s review of The Wild at http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/chi-walkabout-garage-review-20140310-story.html.)
Each impulse comes from a desire: burning, whimsical, nagging, repressed, or otherwise. Someone must respond to her own urge and begin to make something, and sometimes that is enough. Sometimes the impulse comes from a dramaturgical idea; more often it arises from a physical desire that relates to the way we live and work together. Once we wanted to rehearse on the beach all summer, once we wanted to advance our musicianship, once we wanted to tour internationally—and so we created projects that would serve those ends. We cultivate work that will nourish us and feed our desires. Why else? But in terms of a timeline, our initial impulse results from a personal need, and this discovery inspires a dramaturgy. (See figure 3 and Timeout Chicago’s review of The Wild at http://www.timeout.com/chicago/theater/the-wild.)
We devise work through creating a collage of actor-generated material around a central question that fosters mystery, wonder, and joy. We mix theatrical forms to interrupt the audience’s learned experience of being told a story, and we ask the audience to participate in the construction of a narrative among the specific, rhythmic, and evocative images that we juxtapose. The technique we hone is capturing a vitality of action, sustaining a dynamic rhythm in performance, and actualizing the self-revelation of the actor in front of an audience through ritualized events.
We are committed to supporting the artistic growth of each ensemble member through a holistic approach to all aspects of the performance. Again, where is...